AUBURN –– With head coach Jarrod Cook coming in after 14 years at Trinity Presbyterian in Montgomery, Lee-Scott Academy baseball has been tasked with adjusting under its fourth head coach in four years.
For Cook, the turnaround has centered around instilling consistency in a program that has lacked continuity at head coach. As a picture of what he wants the program to be, Cook told his guys about bison and how they don’t shy away from adversity.
“We had a good talk the other day about how bison run into a storm out in the Midwest,” Cook said. “They don’t run from it, they run through it together. We’ve been talking a lot lately about being a bison and not a cow and not running away from hard times… It really transfers to the game of baseball because every day you’re going to fail [on the field] at something. We just want guys that are going to run through a brick wall for each other.”
The journey to building team camaraderie began in the weight room with a few players in the fall, and as players join the team after other sports seasons end, team competitions have taken full force starting in 2024.
Whether it’s overhead weight carries, group relays or a drill on the field, the team is split into groups and given tasks that are physically and mentally challenging. Those competitions force the team to work together outside of their own friend groups, while Cook reminds them of the bison that face challenges together.
Cook, assistant coach Clay Samford and two seniors all agreed that the coach has pushed the players hard throughout the offseason, but the team competitions ended with some off-the-field fun.
“Each day they added up points until that last day for our last competition, which was pickleball,” Cook said with a grin. “Every day, we try to do some type of competition on the field… Just finding out who’s going to compete, you know, who’s going to grind through things and show some grit and toughness.”
Senior Auburn High transfer Garrett West is one of seven seniors on the team tasked with leading the Warriors during this adjustment period under a new coach, and the change is nothing new for him. West said he has played for a new head coach every baseball season since he was in seventh grade.
Seniors JD Burns and West both voiced gratitude for the opportunities they’ve had to learn many different coaching styles and views of the game. For Burns, that includes playing under an accomplished MLB veteran in Tim Hudson last season, but the seniors appreciate the detail-oriented leadership that Cook has brought in as well as the discipline he teaches.
“[Cook] is really tough on the guys. He has a really good outlook, and he wants the best for all of us,” West said. “He has a really structured program for hitting, fielding, throwing and working out that has been good for us. He genuinely wants to see us grow, not only as baseball players but as people in our faith and academically and just as athletes.”
A constant for the program throughout all the shifts at head coach, several veteran assistant coaches have grown accustomed to guiding the team through transitions as well. Samford is returning for his fifth season along with Jacob Ozment, Dan Gamache and Patrick Reeves.
“Relationship-wise, (assistant coaches can) let these guys know that [Cook] knows what he’s talking about; they can trust him, and he’ll take care of them,” Samford said. “[The players] are buying in, and they’re working hard. It hasn’t always been easy, no doubt about it, but it’s going to pay off and I’m excited for them to see it when the season starts.”
Coming off a season-ending playoff loss to Glenwood to end last season at 29-11, the Warriors are eager to get back on the field and show the fruits of their offseason labor. Lee-Scott opens the sea-son on Thursday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m. at St. Anne Pacelli before returning for the home opener on the following Monday, Feb. 19.